6: Star Gazing

Star Gazing: Charting Feminist Literary Criticism by Andrea Lebowitz


This was mentioned in my Methods class. At only 69 pages, it’s closer to a booklet than a book, but as far as the yearly book tally goes, it counts!

I got a few good ideas for my thesis from it.

On collaborative work:

[A]nother constant of feminist literary criticism is the success of collaborative work. Feminist literary criticism has put to rest the cliche that good writing must be the work of one person. (p. 6)

And the Other:

[F]eminists have questioned the binary opposites of our culture which see so many things as opposed and mutually exclusive … This type of thinking sees one thing as ‘other’ and inferior to its binary opposite. (p. 7)

Oh, and interestingly: Lebowitz writes that “the two most important precursors” to feminist literary criticism are Virginia Woolf and Simone de Beauvoir. A Room of One’s Own and The Second Sex “have formed the basis of feminist literary critics’ thinking about gender and writing.” (p. 11) I guess this is not particularly surprising, but what’s interesting about it is that I went through that whole de Beauvoir / Woolf phase and I’ve read AROOO and parts of TSS (it’s long!). I mean, it’s sort of vindicating that some of the stuff I read during that time fits with what I’m doing now. Now that everything is starting to tie together, it feels like there really is a point to it all.

Once I wrote up a list of “books that changed my life.” Meet the Austins (the book that hooked me on Madeleine L’Engle) was on it, as was Writing Down the Bones (the book that got me started writing again). Also on the list: de Beauvoir’s Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter.

But I digress. On alternative/indie press:

[Feminists] have created alternative publishing and distribution networks and have founded many presses, journals and magazines. Some of these address an academic audience, while others speak for and from alternative cultural spaces. (p. 15)

On the novel:

[A]re there limits to what stories the novel can tell? … Does its structure, plot, narrative and closure keep women from writing stories other than the old familiar plots? (p. 19)

vs. “sub-literary” forms:

[L]etters, diaries, journals, sketches … have been widely used by women … studies into secondary forms have raised another fundamental question about evaluation. Why are some forms seen as superior? Conversely what makes a form inferior? (p. 20)

[I]dentity is not determined and fixed once and for all, but is rather in process. More fluid and fragmentary forms may offer ways of expressing this condition. … In autobiography and life writing more generally, the author is often not expressing a life already shaped and complete as she is using the writing as a way to express and make a life. (p. 21)

[I]t is not sufficient to use the old forms for new knowledge. We cannot simply reverse male stories, literary forms or critical criteria. Rather, language and form have become places for revision and experimentation. Most notably the private, fragmentary and intimate forms of expression have found a place alongside the public, completed and logical modes of expression. (p. 41)

Ooh. Well, that gives me something to chew on for a while.